No end in sight to destruction in
Chechnya

The bombing took place in Znamenskoye, the district’s main town, north of the Chechen capital Grozny.

Local officials said at least 70 people were taken to hospital with wounds. The two occupants of the truck were believed killed in the explosion.

The blast damaged eight houses and six other nearby buildings, including one which housed local police.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but a representative of Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov denied involvement in the blast, describing the incident as a tragedy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who's election success in 2000 was in part due to his military re-invasion of Grozny, said the bomb blast would not derail his efforts to find a resolution to the conflict.
   
"The actions...were directed at stopping the process of bringing about a political settlement to the situation in Chechnya," he told a meeting of top government officials. "We cannot allow anything like this to happen, nor will we."

Monday’s bombing was the most serious attack since a March referendum, widely perceived as unfair and unfree, was boycotted by many Chechens.

The Russian government believes the result ties the mainly-Muslim region to Moscow, but it has failed to end violence in the region.

Grozny has been battling a decade-long war for independence from Moscow.

Low-point for Putin

Not the first time Putin has come
under Chechen pressure

The blast will cast a shadow on Putin's "state of the nation" address scheduled for Friday.

Putin benefitted from his overwhelming military assault against Chechen fighters to secure an election victory in 2000.

Despite losing control of Grozny, however, Chechen independence fighters have continued to resist the large Russian military presence, estimated at almost 20 percent of the total Chechen population by Aslan Maskhadov. 

Last October, fighters seized 700 hostages in a Moscow theatre to highlight their cause.

A total of 129 people were killed, including the hostage takers, when Russian forces used a powerful knock-out gas in an effort to end the stand-off. The death toll pales in comparison to the number of Chechens that have died since Russia's latest invasion began in 1999.

Francis Boyle, a University of Illinois law professor who successfully sued Yugoslavia for committing genocide in Bosnia, claims that in the current Russian campaign alone 40,000 Chechens have been killed and 250,000 driven from their homes - numbers that represent a quarter of the total Chechen population.